A central problem confronting all west European economies after the second world war was that of Americanisation. How far should European industry be reconstructed in the image of the United States, the dominant economic and military power of the postwar world? To contemporaries on both sides of the Atlantic, Americanisation of industry meant above all mass production —the high-volume manufacture of standardised goods using special-purpose machinery and predominately unskilled labour-together with its host of associated ‘systematic’ management techniques. Beyond the intrinsic appeal of such methods to Europeans aspiring to emulate American productivity, US policy makers actively sought to promote their diffusion through the technical assistance programmes and investment funds associated with the Marshall Plan. Recent literature on postwar Americanisation has tended to assume without much supporting evidence that this process proceeded relatively smoothly and rapidly, at least in its narrowly economic and technological dimensions. The real barriers to Americanisation, on this view, lay rather in the social, cultural and political spheres, where European elites and popular classes proved reluctant, to varying degrees and for different reasons, to embrace transatlantic models of labour management, welfare provision and mass consumption. Western Europe, as one influential formulation puts it, was only ‘half-Americanised’ during the postwar period; but the design and manufacture of industrial products in such accounts is squarely allocated to the Americanised’ half. Even where the limits of industrial Americanisation are recognised, as for example in Maguire’s otherwise valuable study of postwar British design and marketing policies, the persistence of ‘pre-Fordist’ production methods is taken to be a selfevident indication of backwardness and complacency, an avatar of and contributory factor in the subsequent decline of domestic manufacturing.2